Two Hindu NGOs are now pushing the authorities to step forward and protect the 110-year-old Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, from the threat of redevelopment.
Hindraf chairman P. Waytha Moorthy today called on the National Heritage Department to step in and object to the proposed development and conversion of the land status at the location of the ashram.
He said the body should also take immediate action to protect and acquire the heritage building.
“There are clear guidelines for buffer zones involving such heritage buildings, both domestically and as outlined by Unesco,” said Waytha.
He said Kuala Lumpur had a gazetted structure plan in 2004 where it is believed that the ashram had been classified as a Category 2 heritage building.
Waytha added that under the National Heritage Act 2005, the minister in charge has the vested power to provide or issue policies, statements or directives in respect to any matter or conduct on the conservation and preservation of heritage.
“Under Section 40, the department is empowered to advise and coordinate with the local planning authority when safeguarding, promoting and dealing with a heritage site.
“Considering the importance of the Vivekananda Ashram from the historical aspect, the Commissioner of Heritage also wields extensive power under the NHA 2005 in designating a heritage site as well as acquiring it for the sake of preserving a cultural heritage,” said Waytha in a statement.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan said the board of trustees’ claim that the redevelopment was to help the poor Indians was questionable and was more of a “personal agenda”.
“What sort of education the poor Indians in this country will get after destroying everything that reminds them of their glorious past? The Malaysian Indians do not know the history of their forefathers as it is not part of the present education system,” said Mohan.
He also urged the government to protect the site from being developed.
“We will also take necessary action to stop this,” he said.